Health Officials Fear Pandemic-Related Suicide Spike Among Native Youth

Dec 29, 2020
AP Images

Fallen pine cones covered 16-year-old Leslie Keiser’s fresh grave at the edge of Wolf Point, a small community on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation on the eastern Montana plains.

Amehime / Shutterstock

A new study underscores disproportionately high firearm suicide rates in rural areas, including across Idaho.

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

States in the Mountain West have some of the highest suicide rates in the country. The public radio collaboration Guns & America has been looking into how states including Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are approaching this urgent issue. 

Screengrab via Vimeo

Utah state Rep. Steve Eliason had a jarring wake-up call to the suicide crisis in his state in 2012. Several of his son’s middle school classmates died by suicide that year.

The small town of Craig, Colorado, sits on a winding river in a wide valley in the rural northwest corner of the state. Wild horses roam the wide open landscape, as do herds of elk. The area is a sportsman’s paradise.

“Craig, Colorado, is one of the elk hunting capitals of the country and the world. Most people have a lot of hunting rifles,” explains Damon Hatfield, who lives in Craig and works at the local coal mine. “I think almost every home in Craig would have a gun in it of some sort.”

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

Drifters Western Bar And Grill is a no-nonsense diner in a red wooden building just past the sign that welcomes you to Emida, Idaho. Elk and deer mounts adorn the wall, and maple leaf flags remind you that you’re just three hours south of the Canadian border.

Boise Parks & Recreation / via Facebook


As the coronavirus forced people inside this spring and asked them to isolate themselves at home, in some case from loved ones and friends, experts across the country raised concerns about the possible mental health crisis to come. In Idaho, pre-existing rates of suicide put folks here on high alert for an increase in anxiety, depression and other disorders.

Chris Haxel / Guns & America/KCUR

A new report says the rate of young people dying from firearm suicide in Idaho has increased nearly twice as fast as the rest of the nation over the past decade. It’s the latest grim news for a state already grappling with one of the highest overall suicide rates in the nation.

Jason Gillman / Pixabay

Owning a handgun significantly increases one’s risk of suicide, according to a study published Thursday that tracked new gun owners in California for more than a decade.

Bennilover / Flickr Creative Commons

The global pandemic is putting a strain on Americans’ mental health. There’s been a surge of calls to crisis lines in the past two months. Add a spike in gun sales to that , and experts say we may be at risk of a suicide epidemic.

Shannon Downey / Wikimedia Commons

A new study shows that state laws allowing judges to temporarily remove firearms from at-risk people can lower suicide rates among older adults. It also showed that increased firearms regulations in general are associated with lower suicide rates.

This is an encore presentation.

During the last presidential election, many lower- and middle-class white Americans were drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But have the resulting policies actually placed those very Americans at a greater risk of sickness and death?


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Extended social isolation. Layoffs. A run on firearms. These are indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also conditions that have suicide experts worried about at-risk Americans. 

Firearm Deaths Hold Steady After Record-Setting 2017

Jan 30, 2020
James Gathany / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A near-record number of Americans died by gunshot in 2018 according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Idaho's Suicide Rate Continues To Rise

Jan 28, 2020
Heath Druzin / Boise

Idaho’s already dire suicide problem may be getting worse. According to the latest numbers from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the state had its worst rate of suicide deaths in 2018.

Lisa Marie Pane / AP Images

Idaho has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, with a majority of these deaths coming from firearms. However, little research has gone into this issue because of a ban on using federal funds to advocate for gun control. Despite this restriction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has figured out a way to move forward with new research in ten states, including Idaho. Guns & America reporter Heath Druzin talks to Idaho Matters about this important new study.

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

For more than 20 years, studying guns and health has been a challenge for the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

A new report shows youth suicide rates have spiked alarmingly in recent years, especially in the Mountain West.

Melinda Shelton / Flickr

The new school year doesn't begin in Idaho for another few weeks, but hundreds of school administrators from across the Gem State will be hitting the books this week at the annual conference of the Idaho Association of School Administrators in Boise.

The Mountain West has disproportionately high rates of depressive disorders and suicide. Researchers are trying to find out why. Turns out, the mountains themselves might have something to do with it.